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What you need to know about the new tenancy laws

For the first time in 35 years, tenancy laws have had a drastic overhaul, as they were massively out of date.

Last year, Parliament passed new laws under the Residential Tenancy Act, due to take place in three stages, one of which was in August last year, one in February this year, and one in August later this year.

The aim of the reforms is to ensure more rights and better protection for tenants, but they have proved controversial with landlords, many of whom claim they tip the balance in the relationship too far in favour of tenants.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB, Anthony Appleton Tattersall – an accountant specialising in property – says it’s not a single issue but “progressively more responsibilities and costs being pushed on them over time”.

Mr Appleton Tattersall told Tim Dower he believes the removal of the 90 day no tenancy law is unnecessary.

“It’s only affecting, the numbers I’ve read, are two to three per cent of tenants in a given year, and they tend to be for reasons of anti-social behaviour.”

He says the law doesn’t typically affect good tenants, but most other law reforms are “good and well-justified”.

A good write-up in favour of the new laws from a landlord’s perspective can be found in this Spinoff article written by Mark Todd –

In a nutshell, following below are the changes which affect all private landlords but not providers of Transitional or Emergency Accommodation.

From 12 August 2020: Rent increases limited to once every 12 months. Previously it was once every 180 days (six months).

From 11 February 2021: Multiple changes to the Residential Tenancies Act took effect, as outlined on the Government’s Tenancy Services website.

  • Security of rental tenure – Landlords will not be able to end a periodic tenancy without cause by providing 90 days’ notice. New termination grounds are available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods will change.
  • Changes for fixed-term tenancies – All fixed-term tenancy agreements will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives a 28-day notice, or the landlord gives notice in accordance with the termination grounds for periodic tenancies.
  • Making minor changes – Tenants can ask to make changes to the property and landlords must not decline if the change is minor. Landlords must respond to a tenant’s request to make a change within 21 days.
  • Prohibitions on rental bidding – Rental properties cannot be advertised without a rental price listed, and landlords cannot invite or encourage tenants to bid on the rental (pay more than the advertised rent amount).
  • Fibre broadband – Tenants can request to install fibre broadband, and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to them, unless specific exemptions apply.
  • Privacy and access to justice – A suppression order can remove names and identifying details from published Tenancy Tribunal decisions if a party who has applied for a suppression order is wholly or substantially successful, or if this is in the interests of the parties and the public interest.
  • Assignment of tenancies – All requests to assign a tenancy must be considered. Landlords cannot decline unreasonably. If a residential tenancy agreement prohibits assignment, it is of no effect.
  • Landlord records – Not providing a tenancy agreement in writing is an unlawful act and landlords will need to retain and provide new types of information.
  • Enforcement measures being strengthened – The Regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has new measures to take action against parties who are not meeting their obligations.
  • Changes to Tenancy Tribunal jurisdiction – The Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases and make awards up to $100,000. This is a change from $50,000.

From 11 August 2021 Tenancies can be terminated if family violence or landlord assault has occurred.

It’s a lot to take in, and also don’t forget the new Healthy Homes standards which became law in July 2019. These were put into place for specific and minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture ingress and drainage, and draught stopping in rental properties.

Key dates for Healthy Homes as follows:

From 1 July 2021: All private rentals must comply with healthy homes standards within 90 days of any new or renewed tenancy.

From 1 July 2021: All boarding houses must comply with healthy homes standards.

From 1 July 2023: All houses rented by Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) and registered Community Housing Providers must comply with healthy homes standards. 

From 1 July 2024: All other private rentals must comply with healthy homes standards. This means fixed-term tenancies that have not renewed since 30 November 2020.